|The Birth of Taiko|
As percussion instruments are generally the most primitive instrument in
any society, the taiko existed and was used in the ancient Japan over
2000 years ago. According to some archeological and anthropological
researches, ancient people in the Jyomon era already used drums as a
communication tool or an instrument for religious rituals. However, the
percussion they used is guessed to be quite different from the one used
By the fact that taiko we use today resembles those in China and Korea,
the ancienttaiko was probably introduced to Japan from the Asian
Continent as far as India. The continental music came to Japan around 5
th - 6th century along with the waves of Chinese and Korean cultural
influence based on Buddhism. When the Taiho Ritsuryo, the oldest
constitution of Japan, was enacted in 702, a department of the imperial
court music was established in the Imperial Palace. The department has
been inherited directly till now, honored as the Important Intangible
Cultural Asset. Various kinds of taikos such as San-no-tsuzumi, Furi-
tsuzumi, Dadaiko, Tsuri-daiko, Ninai-daiko, Kakko, Kaiko, and ikko are
used in the court music. The style is said to be one of the roots of
taiko music we know today.
After the samurai class gained power since the Kamakura era started in
1192, a new cultural movement of ethnic Japanese started to appear. Many
original art forms were born under the feudal Japan, unleashed from the
Chinese and Korean cultural influence. For example, a Noh play was
created in the Muromachi era (1336-1573). A famous Kabuki play emerged
and quickly became popular in the Edo era (1603-1867) as well as
Nagauta. Taiko had an important role in those art forms as an
accompaniment, and were gradually diversified to various sizes and
shapes. Moreover, the development of other instruments such as Shamisen,
Koto and Shakuhachi also influenced the shaping of those art forms now
categories as traditional. The methods of taiko playing have been
inherited through generations under the iemoto system (the system of the
teaching of a traditional Japanese art by a master), although western
music has become predominant in modern Japan.
Meanwhile, taikos have always been used in religious ceremonies or local
festivals as well. It is very common to find taikos at Shinto shrines
and Buddhist temples. This shows that taiko has associated with a
religion very closely. The ancient people might feel the power of deity
in the rumbling sound of taiko and taiko had a role as a sanctifying
instrument. Usually, men who were authorized by the priest played taiko
at special occasions. Otherwise at the religious ceremonies, common
people have enjoyed dancing along with taiko at local festivals. Such
local festivals still remain and it is fun to watch their unique taiko
|Taiko in the U.S.|
Taiko was brought to the United States by Japanese immigrants there in
the early of the 20th century. The main usage of taiko in those days was
to play in temples or in festivals as Miya-daiko (temple drum or sacred
drum). The Japanese immigrants preserved their culture in the New World,
probably, to maintain their identity and cooperative spirit as Japanese.
For example, Bon-Odori, a dance in Bon festival reposing the ancestor's
souls in summer, is one of the cultural activities they loved to keep.
According to resources, taiko drumming of Bon-Odori was already
established in Hawaii as early as 1910. The Kanazawa Kenjinkai, an
organization of Japanese immigrants from Kanazawa Prefecture in Japan,
also brought it to San Francisco in 1930's.
When the World War II broke out and Japan declared war against the
United States, a tragedy stroke those Japanese immigrants. They were
taken into internment camps as enemy aliens. After the war ended, the
Japanese-American tried hard to assimilate into American culture, in
order to remove the prejudice. The succeeding generation lost much of
their Japanese culture and even the language. Taiko drumming was also
forgotten for a long time till 1960's.
In the storm of the Civil Rights Movement, some Japanese-American wanted to revive their identity as Japanese, and they found a way to express it in taiko drumming. At the end of 1960's, two pioneer groups opened the door for taiko music in North America: the San Francisco Taiko Dojo and the Kinnara Taiko. Seiichi Tanaka, born in Tokyo, immigrated to San Francisco in 1967 and founded the San Francisco Taiko Dojo in the following year. He was a student of Daihachi Oguchi, the legendary founder of Osuwa Daiko. His style of taiko drumming was a synthesis of Osuwa Daiko, Oedo Sukeroku, and Gojinjyo-daiko. The San Francisco Taiko Dojo was the first taiko group introduced the Kumi-daiko style to the United States. The group inspired many following taiko groups and greatly devoted to spread taiko throughout North America for decades. The Reverend Masao Kodani of Senshin Buddhist Temple founded the Kinnara Taiko in 1969.
Differed from the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the Kinnara Daiko based on a
Buddhist organization and basically performed for events of the temple.
The group is one of the unique Japanese-American Buddhist taiko groups
still going on. Following them, San Jose Taiko was founded in 1973. The
group was also based on a Buddhist organization. One of the Buddhist
priest of the organization was a friend of the Reverend Kodani of the
Kinnara Daiko and was inspired by him to establish a taiko group in San
Jose. Most of the members were Sansei at first. They are urged to revive
the culture of their grandparents; meanwhile, they tried to express
their identity as Japanese-American in taiko drumming. They made it
become a symbolic art form of Japanese-American culture.
The History of Taiko: The Heartbeat of Japan [online] [Japan] Taiko Center Co., Ltd., [published 2004-2005],[cited 2005-10-21]. Available from Internet:
|Copyright © 2005 Narciso Oyamot. All Rights reserved. All other trademarks, brand names, logos, etc are the property of their respective owners.